John McNish was born in the Staffordshire city of Wolverhampton on 26th June 1897. The oldest of six children, his parents were railway porter James McNish and his wife Mary Ann.
Sadly there is little documentation to evidence John’s early life. When he left school, he seemed to have joined his father in becoming a porter and, when war broke out, he joined the Royal Navy, given the rank of Ordinary Seaman in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. He was based at HMS Pembroke, the shore-based establishment at Chatham Naval Dockyard in Kent.
In the summer of 1917 HMS Pembroke was becoming crowded and John was billeted at the Chatham Drill Hall. On the night of 3rd September, the building took a direct hit from a German bomber. Ordinary Seaman McNish, along with 97 others, was killed instantly. He was just 20 years old.
John McNish was buried in the nearby Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, along with dozens of others who perished that night.
Full details of the night raid on Chatham Drill Hall can be found here.